Attorney depression

One of the interesting things about blogging on WordPress (and, I presume, other platforms) is that my nifty stats area shows what search terms lead readers to my blog.  Sometimes it’s clear how someone followed the trail to get here, and sometimes I couldn’t be more puzzled.

I had not expected to have one of two search phrases show up on a daily basis: “attorney depression” or lawyer depression.  But these search phrases have been listed daily for well over a month now.  Unless there’s one exceedingly persistent, unhappy lawyer out there — and even if that is the case — this is a troubling discovery for me.

(As I’ve said in my previous post on depression in lawyers, I am not a mental health professional and I am not qualified to provide therapy.  If you need help, please contact your state’s lawyer assistance program.)

Out of curiosity, I ran these searches today and found mostly articles and blogs that I’ve previously cited or reviewed.  But I found a new-to-me 1999 Notre Dame Magazine article by now-U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz (no longer available), in which he examines the evidence that lawyers are unhappy and unhealthy.  He concludes, “Theres no mystery about why lawyers are so unhappy: They work too much.”  (Some readers may remember a previous post that discussed another Judge Schiltz article that postulated that lawyers in private practice are all too easily tempted by a firm’s money-driven culture to engage in unethical practices. Apparently, Judge Schiltz has authored a number of articles in this theme, judging from the number of responses published in 1999 to a previous article.)

Does the cause of lawyers’ depression really come back so neatly to working too much?  I doubt it.  (However, the connection between lifestyle and depression does add another facet to work/life balance discussions.)  Perhaps that’s one part of the equation, but another part is likely that law school and the practice attracts some people who are prone to depression, and another part is that some lawyers who consider leaving the practice anticipate and dread an economic hit, deeming it unacceptable. Ray Ward’s Minor Wisdom blog includes an interesting array of posts on lawyer/law student depression, some of which may cast additional light on the causes.

Particularly because I now know that people have visited this blog because they’re interested in depression among lawyers, I’d really like to present an answer to what explains the unusually high rate of depression in attorneys.  But I can’t.  What I have learned, and what I’d like to pass on, is that depression is not uncommon in lawyers and it is treatable.  Recognize the symptoms and be prepared to seek help for yourself or for a colleague.  Please.

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